Reigning NBA Rookie of the Year LaMelo Ball has launched MB1 Gaming – a platform for esports tournaments, merchandise drops and content distribution – created with the One Up OS app. As part of the kick-off, MB1 and flagship partner Puma will sponsor a free-to-enter tournament beginning Feb. 5 for players of NBA 2K.
The partnership with One Up, whose app enables branded esports services on its platform, is unusual among athletes involved in esports. A number of prominent NBA and other sports’ stars, teams and leagues have invested directly in existing pro esports teams or franchises.
Ball’s approach will instead allow others to play or create teams that play in events his platform will sponsor with corporate partners such as Puma.
“Instead of backing an esports team, I’d rather start my own eventually and in order to do that I needed to build an esports brand and start building community, which is why I partnered with One Up,” Ball said in an email interview. “This collaboration will be the first step to discovering the top gamers to join my team in the near future.”
The MB1 platform’s first event begins next weekend, an NBA 2K tournament sponsored by Puma and One Up . Finalists will compete in a $25,000 playoff during the NBA’s All-Star Game festivities in Cleveland on Feb. 18. All finalists will receive airfare and hotel expenses to take part in the playoffs, and receive a pair of LaMelo-branded Puma MB.01 shoes.
Ball said the partnership with Puma is “Ongoing. We are locked in. They support me in everything I do, and I know they’re serious about breaking into the gaming space. I’m thankful for PUMA’s support. The NBA 2K invitational will be the first of many experiences that we do together.”
(Image of LaMelo Ball courtesy MB1 Gaming)